For more than 50 years, business schools and business leaders have formally analyzed what business owes society and the environment. And today, leaders in corporate social responsibility (CSR) are all-in, making it core to their business. They integrate social and environmental responsibility into everything they do.
Not a PR stunt
Companies like Patagonia and Eileen Fisher are proving that firms can be successful — even super-successful — by taking corporate responsibility seriously. It’s clearly not just feel-good PR or a marketing spin for them. It drives everything they do. It is an authentic part of the company’s DNA and connection with their stakeholders.
And now these companies and many more like them are going beyond setting a good CSR example. They’re bravely encouraging other firms to get on board. Every new adherent helps improve our society and environment, and also helps make the CSR trend a social norm — a practice others can feel comfortable adopting.
Leading real change
Braver yet, today’s CSR business leaders are breaking the old taboo against mentioning politics. They’re advocating for public policies that foster — instead of discourage — care for people and the planet, as well as profits. That’s good news, because firms that want to do good are up against a longer than 40-year tradition of profit-taking at all costs and policymaking that ignores certain policies for the sake of political donations.
Business leaders are used to meeting challenges, and those on the forefront of corporate responsibility today have found their role in the solution. They are supporting legislation and other policy changes by signing letters and op-eds, making speeches at trade shows, meeting with policy makers and testifying in state houses and on Capitol Hill. More than walking the talk, they are pushing for policy changes that will make business the powerful force for good that Americans know it can be.
Hammad Atassi, CEO, American Sustainable Business Council, [email protected]